Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day (Hardcover)

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Have breakfast with Socrates, go to work with Nietzsche, head to the gym with Foucault, then have sex with Ovid (or Simone de Beauvoir).

Former Oxford Philosophy Fellow Robert Rowland Smith whisks you through an ordinary day with history's most extraordinary thinkers, explaining what they might have to say about your routine. From waking up in the morning through traveling to work, shopping, eating, going to a party, falling asleep, and dreaming, Smith connects our most mundane habits to the wider world of ideas.

Start with waking up: What does it really mean to be awake? How do we know we're not still dreaming? Descartes argues that if you're able to doubt whether you're awake, you are at least thinking, and so you probably exist -- no small achievement for first thing in the morning. Or take going to the gym: As you toil on the treadmill, is your panting a sign of virtue or of vice, of healthy exertion or of unhealthy narcissism? Working out is a version of what Max Weber called the Protestant work ethic -- a kind of spiritual exercise, it also leads to worldly vanity.

With dry wit and marvelous invention, Smith draws on philosophy, literature, art, politics, and psychology to wake us up to a stunning range of ideas about how to live. Neither breakfast, lunch, nor dinner will ever be the same again.

Praise For…

"What makes Smith’s book genius isn’t just the ability to lay out an interesting, eloquent, and relevant piece of work – which he does. The kicker for “Breakfast with Socrates” is that it’s just plain funny."

--The Christian Science Monitor

"Robert Rowland Smith takes the reader into a worm hole of psychology, sociology and theology to show us the hidden meanings in our daily lives. A thoughtful and continuously entertaining picture of human behavior. A filling mental meal that should leave you delightfully satisfied."


"The author is genuinely good at making connections between important ideas and lived experience, and successful in showing that philosophy can be a vehicle for making the trivialities of life more meaningful (and hence more bearable) than they otherwise might be."


"Philosophy made accessible and applied to the quotidian...manages to be funny without underestimating the reader."

--The Financial Times

"Joyously wise."

--Church Times

"This charming book wears its erudition with ease and suggests that despite what Socrates says, it is in fact the unexamined day that is not worth living."

--Publisher’s Weekly

"Rowland Smith supposes his reader is his social and intellectual equal who just happens not to have studied the discipline he did. Taking an aspect of daily life in each chapter - getting out of bed, going to work - he explains key concepts in a way that is amusing and enlightening. He doesn't apply the concepts for his readers but allows them to draw their own conclusions."

--The Australian

"...a very knowledgeable and affable guide."


"I am often asked to recommend a good introduction to philosophy - now I've discovered one. There are plenty of books but mostly they're either the 'wrong kind' of philosophy or they are terribly written. Smith's work is witty, inventive and intelligent - Carl Schmitt on arguing with your partner, Jacques Derrida on booking a holiday - and brilliantly shows how grounded High Theory really is."

--Times Higher Education Supplement

"Smith does not argue for one idea over another but applies the theories in an interesting and sometimes lighthearted manner...The author's accessible writing style and presentation will make this book appealing to readers with a general interest in philosophy or those looking to add some humor and meaning to the ordinary events in their lives."

--Library Journal

Product Details
ISBN: 9781439148679
Publisher: Free Press
Publication Date: March 9th, 2010
Pages: 256